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Tinder Date Scam: Man Scammed To Pay ₹ 1.2 Lakh Bill At Delhi Cafe

When a civil service aspirant right-swiped on a dating app, he had no idea he was walking into a sinister plot carefully planned to scam men looking for love.

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By Kanan Parmar
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When a civil service aspirant right-swiped on a dating app, he had no idea he was walking into a sinister plot carefully planned to scam men looking for love. On Sunday, the victim, not named by the police, reached the Black Mirror Cafe in East Delhi's Vikas Marg area to celebrate the birthday of Versha, a woman he had recently matched with on "Tinder". At the cafe, the two ordered some snacks, two cakes, and four shots of a non-alcoholic beverage.

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The "date" was going quite well until Versha had to rush out due to a family emergency.

As the man finished the food and called for the check, the bill stunned him - he owed the cafe an obscene ₹ 1,21,917.70 for food that should not cost more than a few thousand. 

The victim promptly disputed the bill but he was threatened, confined, and forced to pay. The man ended up transferring the amount online to one of the cafe's owners - 32-year-old Akshay Pahwa. Mr Pahwa is a resident of Shahdara in East Delhi and has studied till Class 10. Once out of the cafe, he went straight to the cops and filed a case.

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The police set out to probe the case and a four-member team led by Inspector Sanjay Gupta was formed. Soon, Mr Pahwa was in the police's custody. During the investigation, he told the police that the Black Mirror cafe is owned by him, Ansh Grover, and Vansh Pahwa. Akshay and Vansh are cousins, while Ansh is their friend.

The cafe employs several "table managers", including one man named Aryan; and these "table managers" are managed by one Digranshu, he said. Aryan is a Class 7 dropout and is currently unemployed. Mr Pahwa also gave up Versha - 25-year-old Afsan Parveen, who also goes by the names Ayesha and Noor. When the cops tracked her down, Ms Parveen was at another cafe on a "date" with a man from Mumbai she had met on Shaadi.com.

 Ms Parveen revealed their modus operandi to the police. Aryan had reached out to the victim and communicated with him posing as Versha. He shared Ms Parveen's photo in the one-time view mode and invited him to Laxmi Nagar on June 23 to celebrate her birthday. Once at the cafe, Ms Parveen feigned a family emergency and rushed out as planned and her date was handed the bill.

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 Each player has a cut: 15% of the amount they charge these unsuspecting men goes to Ms Parveen, 45% is divided between the table and cafe managers, and the remaining 40% to the owners.

Several such schemes are in play in major metro cities, including Delhi-NCR, Mumbai, Bangalore, and Hyderabad to extort money from unwitting victims, the police said. These elaborate plans thrive on a well-oiled collusion mechanism involving cafe owners, managers, and others who right-swipe on the "right" men on the dating apps, they added.

The "table managers" create fake profiles on these apps and lure men to the cafes where they are overcharged for food and drinks, the police said. If they refuse to pay, they are threatened, beaten, or kept in confinement until they comply.

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Social stigma often prevents men from reporting such incidents, the police added. 

 The police arrested Ms Parveen and Mr Pahwa and seized their phones and the cafe's register. The investigation is in progress and efforts are being made to arrest other accused, the police said.

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